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Address to the Gentlemen of the General Convention of Virginia



Williamsburg, July 28, 1774.

You are now to meet on one of the most important matters that ever engaged the Councils of America; you are all well acquainted with the natural and constitutional rights of your country. The resolves from your different counties would reflect honour on the ancient Grecian or Roman states. But in what manner to oppose the growing system of oppression which hangs over you, and to secure your rights for the future, is the important question to come before you. Permit a fellow-subject to offer you his sentiments.

It is proposed that you shall immediately put a stop to all exports and imports to and from Great Britain. We will consider those two points separately.

By stopping your exports you will distress yourselves without one good consequence attending it. You will lessen the revenue it is true; but as that revenue arises from the duty which is paid by the consumer in Britain, the Ministry will only alter the mode of taxation and laugh at your folly. It is alleged too, that you are considerably in debt to the British Nation. If that is the case, let us not meanly take advantage of the times, and give room for our enemies to declare that we are a set of men void of publick faith, who do not deserve the freedom we are contending for. Policy, justice, and proper regard for our national character, all forbid you to adopt this plan. If we are obliged at last to struggle for our liberties, with arms in our hands, let us not stain the purity of our cause with the least tincture of injustice. Let us excite the prayers of the righteous for our success; and if we do fall let us fall revered and lamented.

The other position is, that you should immediately stop all imports from Great Britain; let us examine into the consequence of this step.

We will suppose that all America will unite in this measure. You must then depend on your own manufactures for the mere necessaries of life. But this you will be prevented from carrying into execution, for, as soon as you have openly avowed your design of purchasing no more of the British manufactures, the Ministry will immediately enforce that right which they claim from regulating the trade, of restraining you from making any of your own. It will be made treason and rebellion for any man to manufacture the produce of his own estate; it will be made treason and rebellion not to import from Great Britain; nay, it has already been done by Governour Gage' s tyrannical Proclamation, which you have all seen. This measure will only protract the evil a little while, and increase the weight of your calamities; such are the fruits of allowing a supremacy for regulating the trade.

Let us then, my countrymen, throw aside all temporizing methods; let us assert our liberties with a spirit becoming men who are deserving of them; let us authorize the general Congress of America to lay our claims before the Nation, and demand a ratification of them from the King in his British Parliament — claims so just and so similar to their own, that a brave and generous Nation cannot withhold their consent. But if this, through the corrupt influence of the Ministry, should be denied us, we shall be prepared for the alternative. Let us then protest against the authority of Parliament in every case whatever; let us forbid our magistrates to be governed by their Acts, on pain of incurring the just indignation of an injured people; and, above all, let us remember, in times of necessity that with the sword our forefathers obtained their constitutional rights, and by the sword it is our duty to defend them.